I went to my first gay pride parade in Washington DC, otherwise known as Capital Pride. It wasn’t at all what I expected. I was raised in an LDS community in Utah. People in my community talked as though gay pride parades are pornographic and over-sexualized. Every now and again people from my community posted pictures of pride parades on social media as an apparent means of bragging about how accepting they are while simultaneously mocking the flamboyant. I came to a few important realizations at my first gay pride parade in Washington DC.
As you can imagine, a skewed perspective of pride parades caused me to feel a little nervous. I didn’t want to see genitals, grinding, or any other form of gross. While taking pictures, it dawned on me: gay pride parades are nothing like what I had heard. It was actually an enjoyable experience and genitals, grinding, and other forms of gross are much more prevalent on TV than they were at this parade.
Here’s how I came to this realization. I found myself taking tons and tons of pictures of people dressed flamboyantly. Here are a few examples.
That last picture is Misha, if you couldn’t tell. He’s so photogenic!
At some point I realized tons and tons of boring people were also walking in the parade and I had to wait for them to pass before I could take more pictures of people dressed flamboyantly. And that’s when I came to a pivotal realization. Gay pride parades, at least Capital Pride, have way more boring people marching in them than drag queens and drag kings. And I don’t take as many pictures of them because they look like me and dress like the people I encounter every day.
And that’s when I came to the next big realization. One purpose of gay pride parades is to show local communities that gays and lesbians (and all other members of the LGBTQ community) live and work a long side everyone else. “We’re here, we’re queer, get over it” as some might jest. A few of the memorable groups were gay and lesbian military personell, police, fire fighters, and other public service workers. And probably the most touching was the group of returned peace corps volunteers from around the world.
And then I came to the most moving realization about gay pride parades. It gives a chance for family members and friends of LGBTQ individuals to announce their support publicly. Members of PFLAG marched with signs like “I love my gay son” or “My two lesbian sisters rock”. I posted the picture below to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to see who would click like or retweet, which gave me a chance to see who my own allies are. It touched me to see the number of people in my life who love and support me.
The absolute most moving group was Mormons for Marriage Equality. By the time they had marched through, the crowd around us had died down. When the Mormons came through, people began to scream and cheer. The two guys holding the banner were smiling and giving out as many high fives as they could. People in the crowd pushed and shoved for their turn at high-fiving a Mormon who supported and loved them. And I was able to introduce Dan to an old mission friend marching under a banner of love and equality. I’ll admit. It’s hard not to feel slighted by all Mormons after everything that went down with Prop. 8 in California and everything Mormons are currently doing in Maryland to deny Dan and me our rights to equal protection under the law. My mission friend and I embraced and he continued marching. The crowd continued cheering. It gives me hope that things are getting better.
To all those who assume gay pride parades are about genitals, grinding, and other things that are gross, I hope you’ll think again. Gay pride parades are actually pretty boring. If I didn’t convince you gay pride parades aren’t what think, I hope you’ll at least let me gloat about how awesome the experience was for me. Never in my life have I felt so comfortable in my own skin and never have I seen so many people who love and support me. To the Mormons for Marriage Equality who marched in the Capital Pride parade, thank you! You gave me hope that it will get better.